After three years of intensive observations, a Japanese astronomer says he has discovered that the Milky Way is shaped like a cigar. The finding was based mainly on the distribution of gas density in the central part of the galaxy, Naomasa Nakai of the National Astronomical Observatory said in a symposium near Tokyo.
The Milky Way, the galaxy which contains our solar system, is composed of innumerable stars that are almost invisible to the naked eye from Earth
"It is extremely difficult to determine the shape of the galaxy because we are living in it," Nakai said.
It had been widely believed that the Milky Way was shaped like a spiral, he said, but it now appears it is cigar-shaped.
Nakai's research was carried out with the help of a huge radiotelescope, 146 feet in diameter, in Nagano, central Japan. Apart from the Milky Way, only two other galaxies, among possible billions, are known to be cigar-shaped, Nakai said.